Australian satellite spots possible debris of missing plane

The discovery by satellite of two objects in the southern Indian Ocean, announced by Australia on Wednesday, is being treated as a lead in the search for the Malaysian airliner missing for 12 days with 259 people on board, Malaysia's top official in charge of the investigation said today.

"I can confirm we have a new lead ... and I am meeting the Australian delegation now," acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

He was speaking after Australia said it had sent aircraft to investigate two objects spotted floating in the sea by satellite.

"As we have been doing from day one, we have been following every single lead, and this time I just hope that it is a positive development," Hishammuddin said.

"I was told that assets have been deployed to the area to verify what has already been said earlier this morning, and we are waiting for some information. It is too early to say which area and whether it is in the sea every lead is a hope. We want to verify, we want to corroborate."

Search aircraft are investigating two objects spotted by satellite floating in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia that could be debris from a Malaysian jetliner missing for 12 days with 239 people on board.

Australian officials said the objects, the largest of which measured up to 24 metres, were around 2,500 km southwest of Perth, and appeared to be awash over water several thousand metres deep.

No confirmed wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished from air traffic control screens off Malaysia's east coast early on 8 March, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

The larger of the objects measuring around 24 metres (79 ft), long and seemed to be floating on water several thousand metres deep, officials said, while the second object was about 5 metres (16 feet) long.

According to officials it could take several days to confirm if they were parts of the missing plane.

"It's credible enough to divert the research to this area on the basis it provides a promising lead to what might be wreckage from the debris field," Royal Australian Air Force air commodore John McGarry told a news conference in Canberra.

Confirmed wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was yet to be found after the airplane's disappearance from air traffic control screens off Malaysia's east coast early on 8 March, less than an hour after take off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

"I can confirm we have a new lead," Malaysian transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, where the investigation into the missing airliner was based.

According to another official in Malaysia, investigators were "hopeful but cautious" about the Australian discovery.

According to John Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division, there could be other objects in waters nearby in the area that was a four-hour flight from Australia's coast.

He said this was a lead, probably the best lead right now, though he cautioned that the objects could also be seaborne debris along a key shipping route where containers periodically fell off cargo vessels.

He told a news conference in Canberra, that planes had been sent to the area about 1,550 miles south-west of Perth to investigate the objects.

He added that satellite images "do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up".